Job Search Tip of the Week #51 (2017)


“We have tons of qualified candidates for a key open position, but I’m looking for more than qualifications,” wrote Basecamp co-founder and CEO Jason Fried in an article for Inc. magazine. “When I see it in someone, the person shoots to the top of the candidate list. And when I don’t see it, off the list the person goes.”

What is “it,” you ask? Effort.

Effort means different things to different people, but compare someone “sending in a standard résumé and cover letter or, worse, just a link to LinkedIn…with the candidate who sent a link to a custom-designed website that’s all about getting this particular job,” proposed Fried. If you were in a position to hire, who would you employ?

10 Ways to Stand Out in a Sea of Résumés

  1. Properly format your IT résumé and cover letter.
  2. Include what hiring managers want to see (Keywords are key!) and what they ask for.
  3. Customize your application materials for each job you’re applying to. “People who really want [the job] don’t toss their whole portfolio at me; they pick relevant examples and explain the thinking behind them,” asserted Fried. “They don’t speak in generalities about what makes them great; they speak specifically about how they would be a great addition to [the company].”
  4. Get online. Check out these 6 social media sites for IT professionals!
  5. Create and build your personal brand. Get started with this A-to-Z infographic guide.
  6. Connect with people who work at your target company. This is an especially lucrative strategy for those conducting an out-of-state job search.
  7. Put in the effort to network and socialize both online and off. Doing so can create employment opportunities down the road. For example, Fried hired someone right after he graduated from college because he went out of his way to assist with some PHP programming difficulties – and that person went on to become his business partner.
  8. Recruit an IT recruiter. With their technical knowledge, recruitment expertise, and extensive (and relevant) professional network, they can help you better navigate the high-tech job market. An experienced IT staffing firm like Chase Technology Consultants (CTC) can leverage unique tools to get you in front of hiring managers, faster.
  9. Continuously strive to become a well-rounded IT professional. Make sure you aren’t seeing these signs of complacency.
  10. Put yourself out there. But don’t go overboard; stunts can be a turnoff. Do your research to find out what kind of additional application materials would be best received. For example, a portfolio or website customized to showcase your development skills using the company’s main languages and technologies is “safe” yet impressive.

Hiring based on effort is rooted in the belief that past or current behavior can be used to forecast that of the future – basically, employers see what you’re willing to do to get the job as indicative of how hard you’ll work on the job. Now understandably, not everyone has the time or resources (especially if they’re currently employed and conducting a stealth search) to whip up a custom site from scratch. Fortunately, there are many other things you can do to show you’re passionate and hungry for the opportunity (see sidebar). Start small, and then go big!

Whatever you decide to do: “Never underestimate the power of extra effort,” Fried concluded. “It’s not taught in school. It’s not mentioned on résumés. But it’s the one thing a candidate can offer to really stand out – and a powerful thing employers can look for to identify a great hire.”

Sound Off: What’s the furthest you’ve gone – or seen someone go – to stand out?

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Image Credit: Angie Thomason